Enterprise staff writer
Head out to a UC Davis football practice and at first glance, Sean Kelley, Colton Schmidt and Joey Waters wonÕt stand out at all.
The trio will be milling around the sidelines, watching practice and talking with their Aggie teammates. Pay attention to them longer, however, and they will distinguish themselves not for what they are doing but rather what they arenÕt Ñ namely, going through the same workouts as their fellow Aggies.
ThatÕs because Kelley, Schmidt and Waters Ñ UCDÕs kicker, punter and long snapper, respectively Ñ donÕt really have much to do out there. So during the extensive downtime between the portions of practice they participate in, the group that has been come to be known at The Specialists passes the time however they can.
ÒI try to joke around with some of the other guys just to keep my morale up,Ó said Kelley, a junior. ÒI also juggle the football like a soccer ball.Ó
Added Waters after a practice last week, ÒWe did have a debate today, which would explain how bored we were. The subject was grammar and pronunciation. ItÕs a mind game for us at practice.Ó
Between all the random activities they partake in, The Specialists do get in their fair share of workouts. But Kelley and Schmidt, a sophomore, can only kick so many field goals or punts before their legs get tired and, unlike the rest of the players on the field, they donÕt have backups to give them a break.
Every day The Specialists do some sort of kicking activity, whether that is specific types of kickoffs Ñ such as onside Ñ or pooch punting.
ÒWe come out 20 to 30 minutes early, do stretching and warm up,Ó said Waters, who is a true freshman. ÒWe pretty much have a field goal session every day, which is charted. They time our operation time from when it takes me to snap it and for (Kelley) to get the ball off.Ó
Being a special teams player requires a person to have two things Ñ patience and a sense of humor.
Dealing with the former, The Specialists pass the time however they can. They hold the first down sticks; catch footballs to help warm up the quarterbacks; talk to teammates, the trainers and the medical staff; mess around on the sideline; and, of course, watch the team prepare for the upcoming game.
The latter, well, becomes evident as soon as they open their mouths.
Schmidt on the other two: Ò(Joey) dreams about being a kicker during practice. … If (the Aggies) did a fake field goal, Sean would just get out of the way.Ó
Kelley on playing another position: ÒThere was one time that I went up to Coach Biggs and said, ÔHey, Coach Biggs, I had dream last night that I was a running back. How do you feel about making dreams come true?ÕÓ
Kelley on why he likes helping out the quarterbacks: ÒItÕs my chance to show how much more athletic I am than all the other guys.Ó
Waters on why they were recruited: ÒThe scholarship money doesnÕt really go to snapping or kicking Ñ it actually goes to holding the chains during practice.Ó
The Specialists realize their role on the team seems small relative to the rest of the players, but they donÕt really mind.
ÒI actually feel bad for them,Ó Kelley said with a smile. ÒThey actually have to be out there working the entire practice.Ó
For Kelley and Schmidt, they know that if theyÕre doing well, theyÕll get their fair share of the limelight. Kelley has been named Great West Special Teams Player of the Week three times, while Schmidt has earned the award twice.
Waters said he actually prefers not to be noticed much because it means that heÕs doing exactly what heÕs supposed to.
ÒI donÕt really get the spotlight,Ó Waters said. ÒIf anybody knows my name, IÕm messing up, so I donÕt really want the spotlight on me. If (Kelley and Schmidt) are doing well, they get their name out there but if my name is out, IÕm looking for a new place to stay.Ó
Notes: Schmidt is the only one of The Specialists who has recorded a tackle this year, as he got two assists in the season opener against Cal. Schmidt also had two solo tackles last year. While Kelley doesnÕt have any in 2010, he can claim one solo tackle last year and three in 2008. … Kelley is also known as Seabass, after Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski. As a true freshman in 2007, Kelley was listed at 5-foot-9, 235 pounds Ñ heÕs since slimmed down to 215 Ñ and was given the nickname on his first day at UCD by athletic trainer Jeff Hogan. … Waters took over the long snapper position from Jake Jondle, who graduated last year. … Schmidt admitted to playing some defensive tackle in high school while Waters played linebacker.
Ñ Reach Conor Tekautz at [email protected] or (530) 747-8049. Comment on this story or check out The Enterprise sports blog at www.davisenterprise.com. To view photo galleries and purchase prints of UCD football visit http://photos.davisenterprise.com